BR, state drop slightly in Site Selection rankings

Baton Rouge and the state posted slight drops in the annual Site Selection listing of economic development activity in cities and states, but local and state officials say the numbers don’t reflect the full scope of the projects coming to the state.

After two years as the top-performing metro area among those with a population of 200,000 to 1 million, Baton Rouge was ranked fourth for new and expanded corporate facilities in 2012.

Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said in a statement that it was an honor for the Capital Region’s economic development efforts to make the Site Selection top 10 three years in a row.

Louisiana was ranked No. 12 in the Site Selection Governor’s Cup ranking, which tallies new economic development projects. In 2011, Louisiana was ranked 10th and in 2010, the state finished third overall.

Texas was ranked as the top-performing state for 2012, while Ohio, which took the title in 2011, finished second.

For the rankings, Site Selection counts projects that meet one of three criteria: a capital investment of at least $1 million, creation of at least 50 new jobs or addition of at least 20,000 square feet of new space. Retail, governmental, hospital and school projects are not counted.

Iain Vasey, BRAC’s executive director of business development, said ending up fourth in the Site Selection rankings after two years on top isn’t a disappointment.

Dayton, Ohio, topped the list for cities with populations of 200,000 to 1 million, while Tulsa, Okla., was second.

“Those are cities that are seeing a lot of activity because of natural gas,” Vasey said.

Vasey also said the quality of the capital region’s recent economic development wins count more than just the numbers. Some of the project wins in 2012 include the $550 million Methanex project, which involves moving a methanol plant from Chile to Geismar; the $300 million Avalon Rare Metals project, which will establish a rare earth elements separation plant in Geismar; and SE Tylose’s $120 million decision to build a hydroxyethyl cellulose plant near Plaquemine.

Stephen Moret, Louisiana’s economic development secretary, made similar comments. Moret noted the Sasol complex in Lake Charles, a $16 billion to $21 billion facility that will create 1,250 permanent jobs, counts for one point in the Site Selection rankings — “the same as a $1 million distribution facility with 10 jobs.”

“Obviously, we have secured a significant number of major projects, but that isn’t reflected in Site Selection’s criteria,” Moret said in an email statement.

Louisiana has come a long way in the past few years, Moret said in his statement. In 2008, the year Gov. Bobby Jindal took office and Moret became LED secretary, Louisiana finished 27th in the Site Selection Governor’s Cup. “Our state now ranks higher in every national business climate ranking than it ever did prior to 2008,” he said.

Baton Rouge was the only Louisiana city to finish in the top 10.

Site Selection magazine, published by Conway Data Inc., delivers expansion-planning information to 45,000 executives of fast-growing firms nationwide.